Considering the circumstances you’ve found yourself in, I think it’s probably best that—contrary to my typical style—I keep this introduction short and sweet.
Your Google ads aren’t showing. That’s alarming, to say the least. If you’re not seeing your ads on Google search, this might not be reason for alarm: You should only use the Ad Preview tool to check for your ad.
But if they’re not showing in the Ad Preview tool? That’s a problem.
The good news: There are a number of reasons why—performance-related and non-performance-related—which we’re going to cover in this post.
Want to cut to the chase? Run our free Google Ads Performance Grader and you’ll get a personalized, instantaneous audit of your Google Ads account!
Here’s what I mean by “non-performance issues.” Often, your Google ads aren’t showing for reasons unrelated to the quality of your ads, landing pages, ad groups, etc. In other words: Even if you’re doing a stellar job of adhering to Google Ads best practices, there are still plenty of reasons as to why your Google ads may stop showing. Here’s seven of ’em.
If, like a lot of advertisers, you’re paying for your Google Ads account via automatic payments, Google will charge you when (1) you reach your pre-set payment threshold or (2) you reach the end of your current billing period. It depends on which happens first.
Obviously, in order for these transactions to go smoothly, the payment information linked to your account needs to be valid and up-to-date. If Google can’t charge you, your ads won’t show up in the search results.
As you may know, you have to set a daily budget for each of your Google Ads campaigns. If the maximum cost per click (CPC) bid you set for a particular keyword exceeds the budget of the campaign it lives within, your ads won’t show for queries that match to that keyword. Make sure your account is free of these conflicts between campaign budgets and keyword bids.
At the other end of the spectrum, your Google ads may not be showing because your bids are too low. Your ad rank for a given auction depends on your quality score for the keyword you’re bidding on as well as the bid itself. If you navigate to the Keywords section of your Google Ads account, you can use bid simulators to estimate the impact of increasing your bids by different amounts.
You can add any of these columns to your Keywords report.
If a keyword you’re targeting drives little to no search traffic on a monthly basis, the ads you have tied to that keyword may be ineligible to show. Once Google notices that you’re targeting an extremely low-volume keyword, it’ll make it temporarily inactive within your account. If search volume picks up to a reasonable level, Google will automatically reactive the keyword.
Tactically, however, simply waiting around for volume to increase isn’t exactly a good idea. Using Google’s Keyword Planner (which comes with your Google Ads account) or our very own Free Keyword Tool, you should try your best to find a similar keyword with substantial volume.
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It’s possible that your Google ads aren’t showing simply because they’ve been paused—or because the ad groups or campaigns that house them have been paused. If this is the case, all you need to do is switch them from Paused to Enabled.
Alternatively, your ads may not be showing because they—or their corresponding ad groups or campaigns—have been removed from your account for one reason or another. Unfortunately, if this is indeed the case, you’ll have to start from scratch.
To see if you’ve accidentally paused or removed anything within your account, simply navigate to Change History. Here, you can see the changes that have been made to your account and filter by Status.
If you’ve made sure nothing’s been paused or removed and you’re still not seeing your Google ads show up in the search results, it’s possible that they’ve been disapproved. Obviously, any ad that’s been disapproved is ineligible to show to users. To learn how you can fix your disapproved ads and get them back on the SERPs, check out Google’s ad policies.
Just as you set a budget for each of your Google Ads campaigns, you also set an advertising schedule for each campaign—thus allowing you to tell Google which days of the week and hours of the day you’d like your ads to show. Navigate to the Ad Schedule tab of the campaign you’re concerned about and make sure your ads aren’t scheduled too narrowly.
Next to that Ad Schedule tab you’ll also find the location targeting parameters for your campaign. It’s possible that your Google ads aren’t showing simply because there’s not enough keyword search traffic coming from the geographic region you’re targeting. Once again, you’ll want to make sure this campaign setting isn’t too narrow.
Pro tip: If you want to see how a particular segment of your prospects respond to your ads without exclusively advertising to that segment, you can use the Observation setting rather than the Targeting setting. Whereas targeting limits you to reaching only a specific audience, observing enables you to reach a wide audience while tracking the performance of your ads among a specific audience. That way, you’re gleaning valuable insights without going too narrow.
Negative keywords—which enable you to keep your ads from matching to irrelevant queries—can be set at the ad group level and the campaign level. If some of your Google ads aren’t showing, it may be because you have negative keywords canceling out active keywords.
As an example, let’s say you’re bidding on the phrase match keyword “CRM free trial” and you’ve set free CRM as a campaign-level broad match negative. In this case, the negative keyword would override the active keyword. To fix this, you’d simply need to switch from the broad match negative free CRM to the exact match negative [free CRM]. Doing so would allow you to advertise to users looking for a free trial of a CRM while simultaneously withholding your ads from users looking for a CRM that doesn’t cost anything.
Before we move onto performance-related issues that can keep your Google ads from showing, we’ve got one last scenario to cover: The negative bid adjustments you’ve set are so large that they’re tanking your ad rank.
Negative bid adjustments—which allow you to automatically decrease your bids within a particular campaign under specific circumstances—can be set on a number of different parameters: device type, time of day, location, and so on. As effective as this capability can be, if the negative bid adjustments you’re setting are too extreme, it’s entirely possible that you’re knocking yourself out of the ad competition.
Negative bid adjustments set on certain times of day (which I can’t reveal!).
Once again, using the simulated bid columns within your Keywords report will prove helpful.
Sometimes, you’ll find that your Google ads aren’t showing because you’re not quite meeting Google’s standards when it comes to PPC best practices. In other words: There are times when getting your Google ads to show is a matter of optimization. That’s what we’ll be talking about for the remainder of this guide.
(Because optimization is trickier than adjusting a negative keyword match type or correcting your credit card information, these sections will be a bit longer than the previous ones.)
Each of the ad groups within your Google Ads account consists of two components: keywords and ads. There’s a reason Google houses them under the same roof: The keywords and ads living within the same ad group are tied together. When one of your keywords is triggered by a user’s search query and you’re entered into the ad auction, Google knows to select one of the ads that you’ve tied to that keyword.
Your performance in the ad auction depends on how relevant your ad is to the user’s query; the more relevant your ad, the higher you’ll rank in the paid search results. This brings me to the key question: How do you make sure your ad is relevant to the query?
Short answer: by building ad groups that are comprised of closely related keywords. If the keywords within your ad group are closely related to one another, it’s practically guaranteed that your ad will be relevant to the user’s query—no matter which keyword is triggered, no matter which ad is selected.
The fact that your Google ads aren’t showing may be due to the structure of your ad groups. If you find that you’ve built your ad groups with keywords that aren’t closely related to one another, that’s likely the reason you’re not performing as well as you’d like to in the ad auction.
Making sure your ads are relevant to your prospects’ search queries doesn’t start and end with building focused ad groups; it’s equally important that you optimize your ad copy. Fortunately, this is a bit more straightforward than optimizing your ad group structure.
In a nutshell, optimizing an ad to rank highly in the paid search results means incorporating your target keyword into your copy. By writing copy that includes your target keyword, you’re effectively signaling to Google that your ad is relevant to the user’s search query.
(Are you sensing a theme here? Good! When your Google ads aren’t showing and you need to optimize, relevance is the name of the game.)
Hopefully, this sheds some additional light on my previous recommendations regarding ad group structure. Within a given ad group, you should have more keywords than ads. If you’ve ensured that these keywords are closely related to one another, it’ll be infinitely easier to incorporate them into your copy.
Think of it this way: If you housed the keywords “dog food” and “10 foot dog leash” within the same ad group, it would be pretty tough to write copy that incorporates both of those, right? By contrast, if you housed the keywords “dog food” and “dog snacks” within the same ad group, you’d be in great shape.
The bottom line: Your Google ads may not be showing simply because your copy isn’t keyword-focused enough.
When judging whether you deserve to rank highly in the paid search results, Google doesn’t simply look at the relevance of your ad copy—it also looks at the relevance of your landing page. Essentially, if your landing page fails to help users do what they need to do—as signified by the intent behind their search queries—you’ll do poorly in the ad auction.
Here’s what that means for you: You need to look closely at each of the keywords you’re targeting with your Google ads. Think about the users whose queries are triggering these keywords. What are they struggling with? What are they trying to accomplish? What can you do to help them out?
Landing page for an ad triggered by the query “collaboration software.”
Your answers to these questions should inform the content on your landing pages. The better you are at solving users’ problems with your landing pages, the better you’ll perform in the Google Ads auction. For good measure, you should also make sure to incorporate your target keywords in your landing page copy. That can only help you out.
One last explanation as to why your Google ads aren’t showing is click-through rate—the rate at which your ads turn impressions into clicks. From a practical standpoint, the CTR of your ad indicates how appealing it is to your prospects. If your ad’s CTR is high, that means your messaging is resonating with users really well; if your ad’s CTR is low, the opposite is true.
Google rewards advertisers who write ads that resonate with users. So, the lower your CTR for a given ad (or keyword), the worse you can expect to perform in the ad auction. If you want to give your ad a better chance of consistently showing to your prospects, you need to write copy that grabs their attention and compels them to click.
Believe it or not, our advice for writing ad copy that compels users to click is basically the same as our advice for creating hyper-relevant landing pages: You need to look at the keyword your ad is targeting, think about the users who are triggering that keyword, and identify the specific problem or pain point you need to address. In other words, writing an ad that drives a high CTR is all about meeting the unique needs of your prospects according to their position along the customer journey.
Prospects at the beginning of their customer journeys (near the top of your marketing funnel) typically appreciate ads that provide relevant information and answer their questions. Prospects at the end of their customer journeys (near the bottom of your marketing funnel) typically appreciate ads that enable them to convert or make a purchase.
If your Google ads aren’t showing and you can attribute it to low CTRs, take a close look at your ad copy and judge whether you’re doing a good enough job of mapping keywords to the customer journey and addressing users’ needs.
Realizing that your Google ads aren’t showing can be a scary and confusing moment for a digital marketer or a business owner. It’s all too easy to start panicking and let your mind go in a million different directions.
As much as we can relate to that, it’s important to recognize that there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why your Google ads aren’t showing. Whether the issue is performance-based or not, there’s always something you can do to right the ship and get your ads in front of your prospects once again.
And as we mentioned above, you can detect performance issues using our free Google Ads Performance Grader.
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